Rohit returns as Men in Blue look to seal series

Clear edge: Rahul getting back amongst runs augurs well for India, as his wicketkeeping provides fine balance to the side.

Clear edge: Rahul getting back amongst runs augurs well for India, as his wicketkeeping provides fine balance to the side.
| Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

India will look to wrap up the ODI series against Australia when the two sides meet here at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium for the second ODI on Sunday.

In the series opener in Mumbai, the hosts fought back after losing the early momentum in both stages of the match to post a five-wicket win and go 1-0 up in the three-match series.

Regular skipper Rohit Sharma will take over the reins from Hardik Pandya after missing the first game for personal reasons. His return will bolster the top order which struggled against Mitchell Starc’s fiery spell on Friday. Ishan Kishan is likely to make way.

Crucial part

The ongoing series is a crucial part of the preparations for the World Cup later this year in India, and the Men in Blue can take heart from the fact there were some bright spots after the first match.

In Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, pacers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj rose to the occasion with three wickets each. Notably, five of the six were during the middle overs, which triggered the Aussie collapse.

With the bat, K.L. Rahul guided India to victory with a well crafted unbeaten 75 when the side was in trouble at 16 for three. The Karnataka batter holds the key for the team’s chances in the quadrennial event as a wicketkeeper-batter in the middle-order.

Rahul’s form was an area of concern after he lost his place in the Test squad for the last two matches of the recently concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy against the Aussies. But in ODIs, the 30-year-old has been one of India’s most consistent performers over the last three years.

Since 2020, Rahul has been averaging 63 from 19 innings, striking at nearly run-a-ball while batting in the middle order and has owned the number five position in the line-up.

The Wankhede pitch assisted the quicks, but Vizag has traditionally been a high-scoring venue with some help for spinners. There is also the possibility of showers on match day, with the city also receiving a spell of rain on Saturday evening.

In the last international game here, Yuzvendra Chahal spun the home team to victory against South Africa in a T20 match. So it will be interesting to see if the leg-spinner will get a look-in against a batting line-up with many right-handers, ahead of Kuldeep Yadav who came under attack from Mitchell Marsh in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Australia will look to put up a better show with the bat after losing the last eight wickets for just 59 runs in the opening fixture. If David Warner and Alex Carey are fit to take the field, it should help things for the visitors. But the bigger worry is skipper Steve Smith’s form, as he has yet to score a fifty on this tour.

In the last seven years, India’s only ODI series defeat in its backyard came against Australia before the 2019 World Cup (3-2). The team from Down Under will need to produce a disciplined effort on Sunday if it hopes to repeat that feat.

The teams (from):

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Hardik Pandya, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, K.L. Rahul, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umran Malik, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel and Jaydev Unadkat.

Australia: Steven Smith (Capt.), David Warner, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Ellis and Adam Zampa.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m.

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